Guest Blog: The "Choice Concept" by Don Watt
Bio & Background on our Guest Blogger, Don Watt:
Don is originally from South Texas. He is a graduate of Calallen High School under Head Coach Phil Danaher. He played football at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX. He has coached a variety of positions with several teams in Texas and Arizona. He is currently Head Coach at Sahuarita High School in Arizona.
Prior to beginning, I’d like to thank Matt for the invitation to write to you all. Next to coaching football, a very close second, in my opinion, is teaching coaches and watching them succeed.
The next installment of the Run and Shoot series is “Choice”.
In recapping, when we install the pass game, we begin with the “Go Route” (Rip 60 Z Go and Load 61 X Go for purists – we call it “Go Pass Right” & “Go Pass Left”) which was previously written on by Coach Tony Rodriguez on this blog. If you haven’t already done so, I would suggest that you become familiar with “Go” before pressing on.
We have long held the belief that “Go” is our root play meaning that you can find elements of it in all of our passes. Therefore, once the play is installed, you are enabled to “scaffold” your athlete’s learning with future concepts much like you would in running the Triple and save time on teaching new concepts as they are already learned. This gives us a smoother transition and we find that the players really take hold of the play more efficiently. More, our players are cognizant that the Run and Shoot is the Triple Option of pass world. It allows us to “have the chalk last” and lets us be in the best possible situation all of the time.
I would be held to the fire if I didn’t let you know that we are a Flexbone Triple Option team on the ground. In the air, if we throw, I am a Mouse Davis disciple through and through, sprinkled with a little bit of Red Faught, a pinch of June Jones, a half a cup of Kevin Gilbride and an undisclosed amount of John Jenkins. Needless to say, but I have taken elements from each to build what I believe best suits the needs of the high school athlete to enable them to be successful quickly in this area.
From the previous nomenclature, you can see that we’ve changed the wording of the play in the traditional sense to suit today’s athlete. Rip 61 X Choice and Load 60 Z Choice have morphed into simply “Choice Pass Right & Left” for us. The traditional “Rip” and “Load” (the motions), 60/61 (roll side) and X/Z (affected receiver) have been absorbed or built into the play call to eliminate redundancy. You can easily cut the words down further to suit your style of play calling.
Previously, we read that in the Go Pass out of trips, we required a mandatory outside release and rapid vertical stretch of the X and Z receivers to create the vertical breakdown or degradation of the coverage, a “seam read” of #2 (our option route) and an “arrow” by #3, which was hard-decked at 3-5 yards which created our horizontal stretch. We will use much of the same for Choice on the trips side with some subtle changes. This is where “scaffolding” begins for our receivers.
In Choice, the trips side is our backside of the route as we roll away from them initially due to our “choice read” being the single receiver. The only thing we change in Choice from Go on the trips side is the arrow by #3 now becomes a “Drag”. We want the “Drag” to have a 10 yard ceiling and carry out into the hook/curl zone of the linebacker to the single receiver (Choice receiver) side. That is, we want the drag to get into the play side, unoccupied zone should the play side linebacker decide to sink and widen to take the under portion of the choice route.
I will refrain, for brevity, from the numerous reasons as to why we like to send our slots in motion over presetting them in trips. However, I still contend that motioning causes the defense to be somewhat unleveraged and have to think. More, they may offer the Staff and players vital pre-snap information that will lead to future success against their defense.
In teaching coaches and player alike, we will begin with Cover 3. My focus will be to the nuances of the route to the “Choice” receiver as we have so much carry-over from the Go route. Later, we will reach into other coverages and the remainder of the concept.
In the beginning…
When we started running the route years ago in Texas, we kept it simple. Simple such that the trips side didn’t change up their “Choice” routes versus varying coverages and the single receiver simply signaled his “choice” of route based on pre-snap alignment and leverage of the corner. The receiver called whichever route he believed he could win with, be it slant, hitch or fade. The QB was the ultimate decider and if he didn’t like the route versus the defensive structure, he flipped his hips on his semi-roll and worked his progression on the backside. At the time, that methodology worked well enough. It was later at a clinic in Bryan, Texas that I became engulfed in the specifics of the route and what made it better than the way we were teaching it.
Don’t get me wrong, the pre-signaling worked fine at the time. In fact, many of you probably use the same format to this day. We started running into trouble when our pre-signaled route didn’t work well against the defense’s post-snap change of structure, leverage and/or alignment. A retooling of the route was needed and we were going to face better coached athletes.
When I was initially taught the specifics of the route (via napkin and pen), I was stunned at the simplicity and how much it resembled our “if/then” & “unless” mindset we teach our option quarterbacks. We then gave the wide receiver a like set of guiding principles or “if/then” rules versus different looks and it was up to the him and the QB to get on the same page while dual reading a defender. We took a hands off approach and let the players play with the firm understanding that there was a strict criteria that must be followed.
In teaching the Choice route, we give the receiver several “must-have’s” in order to set up his decision-making process.
Must-Have’s – “Sell the “Vertical”:
First, we explain and reinforce over and over that your take off must be free of false steps and wasted motion. We like to say that anything but going forward after the ball is snapped has a wasted movement in it. As a coach, you need to get real picky here. Film it. Record it and teach off the film. This “economy of motion” is a constant theme in our system through all positions. With our outside foot back/inside foot up, we want our WR to explode off the line as if running a 100m sprint. His aiming point should be at the outside pocket of the corner. We want his inside pocket on the corner’s outside pocket on the stem. We emphasize the word “pocket” as to remind the receiver to keep his head and eyes down to sell the vertical. His path, effort and body language needs to mimic that of the vertical while maintaining the stretch/stem on the pocket.
Note: I would be remiss if not noting that you need to tell your receivers to sell the vertical on the Go route just as you would on Choice. Those backside vertical releases will give your receiver vital information on how the corner will play his release.
Must-Have’s – “7-Steps to Decide”:
We explain to the receiver that he will be running his route off how the corner is playing his seven-step, pocket, vertical release. More, we say that the receiver only has two options in which to choose from (speed out or pocket post) once his seventh step hits the ground.
As the receiver is in his step progression, he is looking at the “cushion” of the cover 3 corner and his hips. The QB is making the same read on the cushion on his semi-roll (we go no further than the inside hip of the PST on the roll). We identify the cushion as a “five yard area” in between the receiver and defender. Once the receiver hits his fifth step, he has a good idea of what route he’ll be running based on the corner’s play. We say the last two steps are just for confirmation.
Getting outside of the corners body frame:
We say that if the receiver has made his stem and finds that his body is outside the frame of the corners body (likely due to a straight back pedal by the corner) then on his seventh step (outside foot) he will roll into a speed out. We feel confident in the option as the difficulty in the corner redirecting and making a successful play is low. Again, the biggest thing up to this point and where we see our first hang-up is the receiver not selling the vertical. Your receivers need to “unhook the wagon” and read it on the run.
Corner outside of the five-yard cushion:
Another possibility is that the corner has maintained leverage on the inside essentially “capping” the vertical. If there is a five-yard cushion in between the receiver and corner on the seventh step, the receiver will roll over his plant and begin his speed out. We are again confident in the receiver’s option here due to the closing speed versus the distance of the throw.
Corner inside of the five-yard cushion:
Another possibility is that the corner has broken the cushion or has come inside of the five-yard zone. If the cushion is broken, we tell the receiver that the corner has essentially taken away his speed out and must now go into his only other option, the “pocket post”. For like reasons as before, we use the word “pocket” to remind the receiver that he should “slip the hip” and stay close to the inside pocket as possible to avoid the Free Safety should he be flowing over the top to defend the pass.
Recap of the Choice Route (vs C3):
1. Economy of Motion (EoM) the takeoff.
2. 7- step, outside pocket stem (or wider; splitting the difference from pocket to sideline to set an angle)
3. On receivers 5th step, he should have a general idea of what is going to be done.
4. Last two steps (6th & 7th) are confirmation of the 5th
5. Outside of the frame = Speed Out
6. Unbroken 5yd. cushion = Speed Out
7. Collapsed cushion = Pocket Post
The Backside of the Route:
As previously stated, the “Run and Shoot” scaffolding method of teaching allows for the understanding of conceptual learning. When installing the backside of the route, we simply refer to concepts previously learned.
Backside #3 (Charlie) runs a drag. We tell him to run his drag much like he would if we called 312 A-Drag (play action pass off of inside veer). We tell him to carry his drag to the void under the corner as if we were running a “Go-Out/Chair” pattern.
#2 (Alpha) runs the Seam Read: Special attention needs to be paid here. Your route needs to be run on the hash/seam. If ball placement isn’t in the middle of the field as in the above example, you need ensure your Seam Read is as close to it as possible; even if that means tagging the route with a “swap” or switching receiver’s positions. The reasoning on this goes back to the “economy of motion”. I want that receiver on a seam/hash and reading as soon as possible. We feel that if he is off his track too far, the effectiveness is lost as he’s trying to get back on the landmark. (see example)
#1 (Zulu) runs a vertical as he does on “Go”. The only leverage we give the receiver is when he sees his corner sinking inside to “two-way-play” the vertical release of the seam read and #3’s vertical takeoff. If he sees the sink, we tell him to drum roll his feet and hitch it.
You may also choose to make the hitch a mandatory route. Considering that you’ll typically run the play with trips to the field, not many high school QB’s can roll away, flip their hips and deliver a deep ball to a fleet footed receiver.
The Progression of the Route:
2. Seam Read
Regarding the backside progression:
Although I have my drag be the last in our progression, it certainly doesn’t mean it has to be in your scheme. We like the drag last as it affords the route to mature should any pressure or bump occur while in his track. It gives him time to clear the traffic, avoid, reroute and get back online in the designated area.
Versus Cover 2
Versus cover 2, our thinking has to change a bit due to the Choice receiver’s options (speed out or pocket post). Considering typical leverage of the corner in a C2 look and the position of the Half Field Safety, both of those options are essentially eliminated. However, we will keep the route on due to the chance of hitting the sideline void in the coverage.
The Choice receiver is aware that he needs to get vertical stretch and, at best, expect a hole shot in the void. At all costs, he needs to get the vertical stretch to influence the play of the safety. If the QB does not like the throw or feels unconfident in its completion, he will flip his hips and work the same progression as he had versus cover 3.
#3 runs the drag and sits in the open void if PSLB drops to coverage.
#2 Seam Read – H prevents the seam track which cuts the Seam read option down to a Post or a “Hook and Hunt.”
#1 runs his MOR vertical.
Progression remains the same as it was versus cover 3.
1. Choice (hole shot)
2. Seam Read
Versus Cover 1
Versus Man-Free there are a couple of nuances with regard to play of the corner and how we run our Choice (option) route. In keeping this as simple as possible for the high school athlete, we tell them that the “Tail will Tell the Tale” on where you need to go. That is, the direction that the defender’s backside is pointing will determine which route to run. For example, let’s bring the route back into focus and say that we have a 7-step vertical, outside pocket release versus a “man” corner. We tell our receiver that he’s going to see one of three different “man” looks (outside shade, head up, inside shade). Considering those three variables, let’s push into what we do to make our receiver “right” depending on how the defense is playing us:
Outside Leverage Man (Corner’s backside is facing the sideline, shoulders perpendicular to the LOS):
The receiver will take his mandatory seven-step release with a purpose. A vertical stretch. If the defender carries the receiver up the field with his backside facing the sideline, then on his seventh step, he will roll the route into a speed out. To sell the option to the receiver, we show him how much time it take for the defender to flip his hips, come to a stop and begin the tackling progression. This usually boils down to about three steps that the receiver gains on the defender.
Inside Leverage Man (Corner’s backside is facing the field, shoulders perpendicular to the LOS):
Given that the “Tail will Tell the Tale”, we have the receiver thin down the lateral stretch of his vertical release and will tell him to run toward his belt buckle. This still sells a vertical outside release and reinforces that the corner will play him between the sideline. The real reason is that on the seventh step, and for like reasons as before in the outside leverage, we feel he can win on the pocket post due to what the corner has to do to get back on track. Will he flip his hips or will he completely roll out? Both options for us area a win.
Versus a Head Up, disciplined corner who maintains a good back pedal, we will say that we can win with the hitch on our seventh step.
On the backside of the route, #3 will still run his drag. We tell him to add a head fake before his drag. He is looking for the QB’s eyes with hands noosed at chest level as he runs. He is the hot receiver should any blitz from the interior linebackers occur. #2 will run his seam read and #1 his clear out.
The Choice pass over the years has been a staple in the Run and Shoot system. It is our second pass that we install. It simply gives our receiver the opportunity, given he follows the prerequisites, to be right all the time. It let’s us as coaches to “have the chalk last”.
I’d like to thank all of the coaches who had a part of this in the past and our current staff today. To list everyone would surely add volumes. Many thanks to Kevin Schamel and Rodney Acosta. A very heartfelt thanks to two great coaches who set very high benchmarks, Phil Danaher and Jim Cliburn (Calallen HS, TX). It was during a conversation they had one day that I first heard the name “Mouse Davis” and it piqued my interest…and the rest was history.
Our next blog posts will continue with a mailbag concept and we will have articles regarding the Sniper Series and Formations with why we use them. As always feel free to discuss blog posts or ask questions on our forum page located here: http://flexbonenation.proboards.com/ If you have any questions please feel free to contact me on twitter @runthetriple or my email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the Best,